IAN McCALL reckons the word ‘legend’ gets thrown around a lot these days but the Partick Thistle manager is adamant that it’s the only fitting term to describe the class of ’71 as the Jags gear up for the celebrations of the 50-year anniversary of their sole League Cup triumph tomorrow.

Jock Stein’s Celtic were humbled in the 1971 showpiece occasion as Thistle pulled off one of the greatest shocks in the history of Scottish football, racing into a 4-0 lead at the interval and surviving a second-half barrage to seal a remarkable 4-1 victory over one of Europe’s greatest teams.

For McCall, the achievement stands alone in Thistle’s 145-year history. And when he hears of managers at either half of the Old Firm getting praised to the heavens for winning silverware that they really ought to be winning anyway, he can’t help but crack a wry smile.

The 1971 team will be at Firhill for tomorrow’s Championship clash with Dunfermline, and McCall is determined to send them home with a smile on their faces.

“It would be great just to win,” he said. “It is a big, big day for the club and we have all sorts of things organised. I’ll be going over to hospitality before the kick-off to speak to everyone and that’s something I never do but I’m going to do it on Saturday because it’s the 1971 team.

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“I don’t know whether that brings extra pressure but ... the word legend is bandied about way too often.

“If you win seven trophies at Celtic or Rangers then you’re a legend. Well, I’m sorry but you’re not. These guys, though, are bona fide legends because what they did 50 years ago was really special.”

Thistle’s free-scoring start to the season – the Jags have racked up 23 goals in nine outings – has thrilled the stands at Firhill at this early stage of the campaign. The strike partnership of Brian Graham and Zak Rudden has been particularly fruitful and while McCall expects Dunfermline to improve sooner rather than later, he has faith that his side can outscore just about anyone in the second tier.

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“To score 10 goals in two league games is very good,” he reasoned. “Brian Graham, since he joined, contributes an awful lot. He does work in both boxes because of the type of boy he is and he has exceeded expectations.

“He’s well above one in two and Rudden is always going to score goals. We’re a team with an awful lot of confidence and long may that continue.

“When footballers are confident and quite good you tend to win football matches but on the other hand, there’s a suspicion from me that Dunfermline will turn it around. I think they’ve got too many good players so we will need to be on our toes for that.”

The case of Rudden, in particular, is an intriguing one for Thistle supporters. Injuries and the pandemic ensured a stop-start beginning to life at Firhill for the former Rangers striker but he has produced some of his best football since settling into the side.

With Rudden’s contract set to expire in the summer, McCall is wary of Premiership clubs making a move to sign the centre-forward once the transfer window reopens in January – but he firmly believes Thistle are the best club for Rudden to realise his potential.

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“Well, if they pay us a lot of money then fine,” came the response when McCall was asked if he thought other teams would be keeping an eye on Rudden. “He’s only 21 but it feels like he’s been around forever after bursting onto the scene as a 17-year-old with Falkirk.

“There’s always that – the way that [Scott] Tiffoney is playing, you’ve got to think that there will be people looking at that level of performance. But they’re under contract with us and Zak is young.

“I do think he’s got an awful lot to learn and has got an awful lot of growing to do as a boy as well. He’s a great, great boy but I don’t think he’s ready to move. What I will say is that I think he’s got every attribute to play at a really, really high level.”